4 Natural Boosters of Serotonin, our Emotional Fluid

 

Can you imagine your life without emotional peaks and valleys? Sounds impossible, right? What’s possible is to increase your emotional control through enduring changes in lifestyle.

When you wake up relaxed and energized from a good night’s sleep, ready to take on the day – that’s serotonin kicking in.

When you feel depressed, overwhelmed by your daily responsibilities and challenges, you may have a deficit of serotonin.

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between neurons. It plays an important role in regulating your mood, controlling your appetite, helping your blood clot, helping you concentrate, regulating your body temperature, and ensuring a good night’s sleep. As a result, when we have normal levels of serotonin, we feel emotionally balanced and alert.

On the other hand, if we have low levels of serotonin, we may have trouble remembering things, feel depressed, crave sweet or starchy foods, feel anxious or irritable, have trouble sleeping or have feelings of low self-worth.

 

What is the link between serotonin and depression?

Researchers have linked low levels of serotonin in the brain with depression. Back in the 1960s, researchers hypothesized that low levels of serotonin in the brain led to depression. However, this hypothesis has now been debunked.

Instead, it appears that several other factors are also involved in depression. These include:

  • Having a family history of depression
  • Having a hectic lifestyle and having a high level of stress in your life
  • Your relationships at home and in the workplace

Nevertheless, if you have low levels of serotonin, you may be at increased risk of depression. This is where SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be helpful. SSRIs are medications which increase the uptake of serotonin in your brain.

Too much of a good thing is bad for us though. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur if you take too much of an SSRI or if you take many SSRIs at the same time.

If you are looking to recharge your batteries, and need a little extra boost, here are 4 simple ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels:

Bask in bright light

When you go outside for a stretch or even just to gaze at nature, you may have noticed that you tend to come back recharged and better able to concentrate. This is because our brains produce more serotonin when we spend time in bright sunlight.

Is it cloudy outside? Still head outdoors! Even on a cloudy day, the light intensity is still typically brighter than your typical indoor lighting. Alternatively, invest in a high-intensity luxe lamp that simulates bright sunlight.

Eat a healthy diet

Adding more fruits, vegetables and legumes can contribute to a healthy gut. But did you know that having a healthy gut can also boost your serotonin levels?

More than 90% of our serotonin is produced in our digestive tract. Thus, by eating fiber-rich foods which promote gut health such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes we are naturally boosting our serotonin levels.

Foods that are high in tryptophan can also boost your serotonin levels. This is because tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your brain. What foods tend to be high in tryptophan? Protein containing foods such as nuts, lentils, tofu, chicken, fish and eggs.

However, boosting your serotonin levels is not as simple as incorporating protein-rich foods. This is because tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids, in particular the branched chain amino acids for access to our blood-brain barrier, before it can be converted to serotonin in our brain.

How can one overcome this obstacle? Eat more plant-based proteins such as seeds and nuts. Plant-based proteins contain less branched chain amino acids, hence they are better absorbed through the blood brain barrier.

 

Engage in regular exercise

It can be hard to get into exercise mode, particularly if you are down in the dumps. Everything seems like a struggle, particularly working up the motivation to break a sweat. When we exercise, both aerobic and strength, the activity of serotonin in the brain is revved up and the levels of tryptophan in our brain rise.

If fitting exercise into your daily routine seems too difficult, begin with baby steps. Commit to just 5 minutes of a vibrant walk a day for one week. Then the next week, increase it to 10 minutes. Before you know it, you will have built up to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, and reap not only increased serotonin levels but numerous health benefits as well.

 

Be mindful of your thoughts

Just like the saying goes “You are what you eat”, you also become what you think! In a study conducted on healthy participants, those who were told to recall happy memories showed increased serotonin production in their brains. On the other hand, those who were told to recall sad memories showed decreased serotonin production in their brains.

It can be very tempting to ruminate on sad events when we are suffering from depression. But by finding happy things to focus on, we may be able to achieve a happier state of mind.

To think happy thoughts, begin a gratitude journal, practice mindfulness, focus on your strengths rather than your perceived weaknesses, and reminisce about the good times in your life.

 

Life has its ups and downs. By naturally boosting your serotonin levels, you will be able to experience more  “highs” than “lows”. Start right now on the path to feeling happier, more alert, and refreshed every day.

6 Essential Hacks of the Creative and Productive Leader

Do you feel as though life moves too fast? If you sense your to-do list nipping at your heels, you’re not alone.

It can be all too easy to be swept into the momentum of day-to-day affairs and no longer feel in charge. But there is hope. Let’s discover the 6 essential drivers behind the mindset of the leaders in creativity and productivity.

Be Aware

Countless peer-reviewed studies, notable authors and teachings of ancient cultures show that being mindful and aware of stressful thoughts and situations is a key element of a creative and productive life.

In 2017, the American Psychological Association, conducted a stress survey and found that the most common stressors for Americans were politics, money, and work. Identifying the internal and external drivers of your stress is essential to achieve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Mindfulness may not be a magic pill that will optimize your life in one go, but with time and a self-reflecting and mindful lifestyle, you can alter essential traits of your personality.

 

Be Contextual

Life is complicated. We live in an interconnected and rapid changing world. When assessing any thought or experience, we ought to take into account the social, cultural and political context. Context means to take a step back and observe ourselves and our surroundings within our environment, such as our mood swings, workplace or family dynamics.

Not an easy proposition, but seeing things in perspective is an indisputably vital way to tame our thoughts and inspire calmness. Our modern era calls for a different mindset not necessarily relevant just a few decades ago.

To gain this situational perspective, we require a mental framework that we can carry with us at all times – a practical way to see ourselves in third person. One approach is mindful framing, where you visualize being the director, producer and screenwriter of your own life. Rather than be pulled waist deep into the mud of anxiety, you can use your mind’s eye to see yourself in a movie set, in the context of your own thoughts and environment.

 

Be Here for Yourself

Whether you choose to day dream, be creative, be mindful, socialize, work or relax, one thing remains the same: You.

Ensure in every moment that You are in charge, not a marionette or mindless robot. You should invest quality time in self-reflection. Find solitude by skipping passive activities, such as watching shows, scrolling news feeds, and overindulging in social media.

Spend time with yourself, in silence, doing ‘nothing.’ Be careful though, your mind will try to take over and lead you into stressful thoughts, avoid them by being aware and assessing the context of the moment. Over time your mind will start delivering creative ideas and a sense of calmness essential to cope with every day’s life challenges.

 

Be There for Others

Often, we believe the more we do for others, the better. We may even connect what we do to our inherent social value. Sadly, the endless strive towards mastering superficial engagements creates frustration and confusion.

Just being there, open and available to others provides immense support. People notice within seconds our social status and essential cues about our attitude. Let’s just be authentic, be in the moment and show empathy.

Take a new job, for instance. At the beginning of your new role, you will inevitably struggle to keep up with all the different tasks. You could spend all day answering every email that enters your inbox, or you could spend time learning about the company’s culture. Identify how individuals and teams, their personalities and networks are driving work streams.

Instead of barely skimming through a ton of superficial engagements, you can be more effective by focusing on a few in-depth interactions.

 

Be in a Flow State

Given a choice, would you prefer to receive electric shock therapy, or be alone with your thoughts?

It might sound like a silly question. But a study conducted at the University of Virginia discovered that participants would rather subject themselves to electric shocks than dealing with their minds.

When we eliminate distractions and allocate time to a focused task, either work or leisure, time passes much faster and we are much more productive. We are in a flow state.

In his best-selling book Flow, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observed that to achieve a flow state requires the five C’s of the flow mindset:

  • Clear goals
  • Centered on the task at hand
  • Choosing the right opportunities
  • Commitment
  • Challenging yourself

 

Be Stress Free

It might seem natural to avoid stress by distracting ourselves with work, leisure and digital or social engagements than face our thoughts. And in some ways, it’s not our fault. There tends to be a culture of productivity and hyperactivity that tells us to avoid boredom at all costs.

We may even feel that doing nothing is lazy and unproductive. But nothing is further from the truth.

Ever notice how you feel more clear headed after a vacation? Well, our brains need vacations daily, not just a few weeks out of the year. Manfred Kets De Vries, an INSEAD Professor of Leadership, explains that allowing the brain ‘downtime,’ enables us to improve our mental health, incubate new ideas and reduce stress.

Our world moves at lightning speed, and in some ways, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fast-paced drive. But having a mindset able to allocate downtime throughout the day while keeping productive bursts of energy generates better results than steady pressure at work.

 

By learning and practicing how to deploy these 6 mindset drivers you train your mind to relax and clarify your thought processes. You are entering a new mental space; you are becoming the fearless leader of your mind.